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October 12, 1998 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1998-10-12

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, October 12, 1998 - 9A

Everyone wins in 'End'

Courtesy of UPN
Max Baker, Dann Florek, Chi McBride apd Christine Estabrook star in "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfelffer."
eCr' not worttlln

By Kelly Lutes
Daily Arts Writer
Some people say that you either love
Beckett, or you don't. One thing is for
sure: No matter how you feel about
Beckett, he is always thought-provoking.
Whether or not you've studied
"Endgame" in class, you really should
see the play performed live. It is a total-
ly different experience and one that
exposes the very heart of the human con-
The viewer's first impressions of this
production are heightened by the inti-
mate nature of the Trueblood Theatre.
The set is eerily quiet and empty, with
what appears to be debris strewn about
the stage. Lights stream through the
papered windows and doorway, almost
hurting the eyes with their intensity and
creating a truly startling effect.
Clov (Jason Lindner) is the first char-
acter the audience encounters. He is
dragging a ladder from side to side and
laughing almost madly. Clov is not able
to bend his legs and Lindner therefore is
forced to play the entire show in a stiff-
legged, awkward position that he some-
how manages to carry off with grace.
The tyrannical Hamm is played by
Josh Parrot. Much of the play surrounds
the interaction between this pair of
unlikely "friends." Their relationship
resembles a nursery rhyme, with one
character unable to sit and the other
unable to stand or see. Mr. Parrot con-
structs a wonderful brute in Hamm. But
the tender moments, if one can consider
any moment between Hamm and Clov
tender, do not succeed with equal inten-
Without a doubt, the comic relief in
this dismal play is provided by Nagg and
Nell (Matt Oberg and Kimberly
Woodman), Hamm's parents. These

courtesy of University Productions

Esutham lyer
For th Daily
"The Critics hate it. You'll love it."
That' the line with which UPN pro-
mdtc4 one of its more prominent new
shows, "The Secret Diary of Desmond
Pfeiffer" (the "P" is not silent). Well,
love may not be the right word to use.
In another attempt to steal the spotlight
fromn their rival fledgling network, the
WB, UPN has decided to create a
omedy based on the life of the
frica American butler of Abraham
Desmond Pfeiffer has already gar-

-ftmpa F

The Secret Diary
of Desmond
Tonight-at 9 p.m.

tiered a large
amount of
attention with
its pilot episode
alone, which
UPN decided
to air later, as a
result ofaccusa-
tions made by
media and
activist groups
that the show is
"racially insen-
s i t i v e ."
Los Angeles

sitive attitudes toward slavery held
back then. Overall, the show doesn't
joke about slavery, or even comment
on it. Slavery is hardly an issue. After
all, "Desmond Pfeiffer" is a comedy,
not a social commentary.
But "Pfeiffer" does not succeed as a
comedy. With an interesting premise,
the show isn't as horrible as a number
of critics have made it out to be. On
the other hand, "Pfeiffer" is ridiculous-
ly childish, missing out on a number of
more clever jokes that a better show
would capitalize on, and instead going
for the short-term gross-out joke. As
the title character, Desmond Pfeiffer,
while interesting enough, should be
the one who leads in humorous behav-
ior. Instead, he's the straight man in
what seems like a madhouse -
Lincoln's White House. He pushes
around his own English servant while
rejecting the sexual advances of both
Mary Todd Lincoln and her husband,
President Abraham Lincoln.
It is the portrayal of these charac-
ters, and not the show's controversial
slavery jokes, that will bring problems
for the program's future. As one of the
United States' most respected presi-
dents, Lincoln is ripe for satire, but the
show's creators go about this in the
worst way. Instead of actually doing
research and digging up some real dirt
on the President, the creators portray
Lincoln as an oversexed leader with
homosexual tendencies. At one point,
Lincoln, in a drugged stupor, begins
rambling about the "big biceps" and
"washboard stomachs" of the soldiers

going to war. Unfortunately, this entire
subplot of Lincoln's questionable sex-
uality has no real point except for
shock value, and even then, the shock
isn't funny.
Seeing Mary Todd Lincoln singing
"Happy Birthday, Mr. President" a a
Marilyn Monroe after an especially
gratifying night in bed is just ridicu-
lous and may cause a number of view-
ers to shudder.
Much of this inference comes from
the pilot episode, which UPN sent to
television reviewers but declined to air.
Instead, the network aired the second
episode, "AOL: Abe Online," which
unfortunately reflected the same child-
ish attitude as the first episode, only
with less controversial comments. The
only decent part of the episode, which
deals with a telegraph sex relationship
that the president developed (parallel-
ing modern chat rooms) was the cer-
tain comments made by the characters
to reflect the actual events in the cur-
rent White House. Yet, it is so obvious
that the show is reflecting the Clinton
scandal that it seems to congratulate
itself on its own cleverness.
"Pfeiffer," has already lost its battle
for acceptance. It should really never
have been created, but now that it
exists, the only way the producers can
save it is to transform it into what they
originally intended: a high-concept
comedy containing high-concept
humor. But if UPN doesn't head in a
different direction soon, the house that
"Star Trek" built might come crashing

Josh Parrot stars as Hamm In "Endgame."
"Endgame" takes place in a post-apoca-
lyptic era. Much time and effort is spent
emphasizing the empty nature of the
outside world and that being outside in
that world would mean death. Beckett,
however, was careful about not giving
this play a specific time period or setting
and for good reason; it ensures that the
focus of the play is on what is being said
between the characters and how they
interact with one another. Part of the rea-
son this play is considered a masterpiece
is its cryptic nature.
Some of the humor and important
moments in the play are overshadowed
by Hamm's exaggerated nature. The end
is handled perfectly with just the right

amount of time given to the "goodbye"
between Hamm and Clo. A multitude of
emotions are brought about by the final
sequence including frustration, anger
and satisfaction that Clov left and some-
thing new happened. And yet, it is sad-
ness that prevails above all because the
characters truly have reached the end of
their game.
"Endgame "continues this week with
performances Wednesday through
Saturday at 8p.m. and a Sunday mati-
nee at 2p.m. The Trueblood Theater is
located in the Frieze Building. Tickets,
with student ID, are $7 at the League
Ticket Office. Call 764-0450 for more

aging lovers provide
E 8ndgame
Trueblood Theater
Oct. 8, 1998

many a light-heart-
ed moment
despite being con-
fined to oil bar-
rels that Hamm
orders capped
whenever the
fancy takes him.
One of the most
poignantly funny
moments in the
play occurs when
the two, who are
placed just out of
each other's reach,
strain across the
barrels to kiss. It

City Council members attempted to
review the show and censor its con-
. t, all of their arguments culminating
the decision by UPN not to air the
pilot episode due to the protests. It is
true that the show does take a few jabs
at slavery, with a buffoonish chief of
staff making most of those comments.
j3ut that's his role: to reflect the insen-

is a pity that Nell passes from the scene
so quickly, as Woodman is a definite
This cast seems to have grasped tight-
ly onto the scholastic theory that

Paris: 31, avenue Bosquet, 75343 Paris cedex 07, France - (33/1)
New trk: 60 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 1(X%17 " (212) 983-1414
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